Wednesday, April 01, 2009

Another sunny day takes us onto uncharted waters…

The good weather continues, though I thought earlier that we wouldn’t be. At the end of last week, while out with Meg, I spotted several pallets of bags of grout and a compressor waiting alongside the Hurleston light of locks. We had a walk down this morning, first thing, to see contractors working on lock 2. Apparently, during the recent stoppage, several voids had been identified behind the lock wall. If left unfilled, these would have led to collapse of the chamber. So they were injecting liquid grout into the gaps.
But they’d started early, and were near to finishing when I had a chat to the BW chap in charge. He told me that we would be OK to go down the flight at 10:00. That’s a relief, I thought for a bit that our restarted trip had been stopped almost immediately!

Finishing off repairs at Hurleston (not Mags, the chap behind!)
So we were away at 09:50, and down the flight by about 10:30. Meeting 2 boats coming up meant that the locks were with us, so we made good time.

At the bottom of the flight

Then it was a gentle chug along to Barbridge Junction, and onto water we’d not cruised before.
(The missing bit of the sign is "Wolverha")

Barbridge Junction from a direction I’ve not photographed before.

The first couple of miles run alongside the busy Chester Road, but then it moved off north, and we had a quieter cruise to Bunbury Locks.
These are a 2 rise staircase, and are broad gauge, as are all the locks up to Ellesmere Port.
2 boats were waiting to come up, so we were able to do the “Bunbury Shuffle”, with all 3 boats in the 2 chambers.

Half way through the “Bunbury Shuffle”. We're going down, 'tother two are coming up.

The next 3 locks were in our favour, with boats coming up. Beeston Iron Lock is unusual, in that it’s built from – you’ve guessed it – iron! Wrought iron plates in fact. The ground that it is built in is so unstable that a conventional structure would crack, so they used this ingenious solution. Although even this has now distorted, and BW advise careful solo passage only.

Beeston Iron Lock
The rocky outcrop which supports Beeston Castle had been visible odd times through the trees, but as we approached Wharton Lock it appeared clearly on the left side. We decided to pull over here, with the castle in the windows on one side, and open fields on the other.

I imagine it’s a popular spot in the season. There were 2 boats here when we arrived.

This fine weather is supposed to hang around till the weekend. As far as I’m concerned, it can hang around till October!

Greygal had told us we’d enjoy this short excursion, and she’s not wrong so far.
There’s been a few boats moving today, mainly private but with a couple of hire boats thrown in. I had a lockside chat with one crew who’d hired out of Chirk on Saturday, gone up to have a look at Pontcysyllte Aqueduct, then turned around, down to Hurleston and on to Ellesmere Port. They were heading back to Chirk, having left the Boat Museum early this morning. Quite a trip in a week – 132 miles and 76 locks!

Locks 9, miles 8

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